Harnessing hedgerow soil biodiversity for restoration of arable soil quality and resilience to climatic extremes and land use changes

Investigating how grass-clover leys enable ecosystem engineers to recolonize adjacent fields

Professor Jonathan Leake
University of Sheffield

Co-PIs & Co-Is

Professor Duncan Cameron, University of Sheffield
Professor Rob Freckleton, University of Sheffield
Dr. Dylan Childs, University of Sheffield
Professor Steven Banwart, University of Sheffield
Professor Joseph Holden, University of Leeds
Dr. Pippa Chapman, University of Leeds
Professor Leslie Firbank, University of Leeds
Professor Mark Hodson, University of York
Dr. Thorunn Helgason, University of York
Dr. Jill Edmondson, University of Sheffield

Aims & Objectives

This project will investigate how grass-clover leys sewn into arable fields connected to hedgerows and unploughed grassy margins enable ecosystem engineers to recolonize adjacent fields. This project will:

  • Determine the importance of connectivity from
    biodiversity refugia under hedgerows to arable fields via grass-clover leys in restoring functional biodiversity.
  • Quantify soil quality as functional benefits from soil-
    organism interactions.
  • Quantify the operational, temporal and spatial scales for eco-system engineers and soil functions to develop with land use management change.

Professor Jonathan Leake

University of Sheffield


Susannah Bird

Susannah has a background in plant molecular physiology with research focusing on plant responses to rising atmospheric CO2.  More recently she has investigated the potential of lignocellulose-degrading mixed microbial communities as a source of novel enzymes for use in improving the second generation biofuel industry.  She has experience of community profiling, proteomic analysis, plant cell wall analysis and transcriptome analysis.  She is familiar with a variety of molecular biology techniques such as protein and nucleic acid extraction and analysis, second generation sequencing, protein expression and purification and plant cell wall analysis


Richard Grayson


Richard is a hydrologist whose research focuses on catchment management, particularly how land management impacts hydrological and geomorphological processes.  Specifically he has experience with upland management and restoration on water quality and quantity in peat catchments, including impacts on water colour, DOC and POC export as well as discharge, erosion and sediment loads.  He is familiar with a range of analytical techniques including use of tension infiltrometers, penetrometers, soil moisture and water potential sensors.

For more information on Richard please click here

Despina Berdeni


Despina is an ecologist whose research focuses on plant soil interactions. Her recent research has investigated the role of mycorrhiza for developing sustainable agro-ecosystems.  Specifically she has experience of the impact of land management upon arbuscular mycorrhizae and the effect of mycorrhizal symbiosis upon growth, productivity and disease resistance of fruit trees. Despina is experienced in the use of molecular ecological methods to study mycorrhiza community dynamics and a range of techniques including microscopy, extraction and quantification of plant and soil nutrients, study of soil chemistry and structure and plant growth analysis.

Miranda Prendergast-Miller

Soil Ecologist

Miranda is a soil ecologist whose research focus is on nitrogen cycling in agroecosystems.  Specifically she has experience working on enchytraeids, mycorrhizal fungi, biochar, land use change and bushfire.  Miranda is familiar with a broad range of analytical techniques for soil and plant properties, and nutrient pools and process rates. She also has training in microbiology, application of stable and radioisotopes and soil gas flux measurements.